| MEMORIAL TOWN HALL |
18 Church Street
North Haven, CT
Type: Brick building
Architect: Solomon F. Linsley
Height: Two stories
MEMORIAL TOWN HALL, North Haven, is significant historically because it is an example, relatively rare in Connecticut, of the use of a building to mark a community's honor and recognition of its men who died in the Civil War. The North Haven community engaged in a dialogue on whether a building or monument should be constructed as a Civil War memorial. Ultimately, both were built, but the idea of a building won out in the initial discussion and was constructed first. (See also SOLDIERS MONUMENT, North Haven.)
Part of the argument over which form the memorial should take concerned the question of whether dedication should be to those who died in the war or to all who served. Recognition of those who died won adoption in a vote January 26, 1886, as evidenced by the marble tablet now at the North Haven Historical Society, but the issue did not go away. The post-World War I replacement plaque honors all who served.
MEMORIAL TOWN HALL, North Haven, is significant architecturally because it is an example of transitional and eclectic architectural styles from the 1880s, although it was altered beyond recognition ca.1950s.
The front elevation originally responded to contemporary trends, reflecting the move away from the Picturesque styles which had been in vogue in mid-19th century toward recognition of classical precedents. The rounded front was awkward in proportions, but nonetheless acknowledged the bowfront of classicism and the pediments and cornices of the Renaissance Revival. The radially glazed window and deep pediment, again awkwardly proportioned, foretold the widespread use of such features in the Colonial Revival which followed the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of the next decade. The diaper-pattern brickwork in the tympanum was a contemporary Picturesque decorative feature, in an uncommon location.
Solomon Fowler Linsley (1830-1901), the local architect/builder, is known to have built at least 32 structures in the North Haven/Fairhaven area during the years 1865-1901. The bulk of his work was domestic, frame, and in the Queen Anne style. Something of Queen Anne-style proportions comes though in his MEMORIAL TOWN HALL.
Contract for the town hall was let May 3, 1886, at a figure of $6,700. Original size of the building was 42 1/2' x 75'. The parcel, bought especially for the purpose, was 75' x 150'. Construction got under way promptly, on May 11. Foundations were laid by Lyman of Meriden, brick was furnished by I.L. Stiles & Sons, who also supplied the brick for SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, East Rock Park, New Haven. A newspaper report of October 18, 1886, noted the building was nearing completion; it was in use by March 1887.
MEMORIAL TOWN HALL, North Haven, is a 69' x 101' two-story gable-roofed brick building facing east, across the street from North Haven Town Green. Built in 1886 in a transitional Renaissance Revival/Neo-Classical Revival style to honor Civil War dead, it was altered on the front elevation to the Colonial Revival style ca.1950s.
As built, the front elevation was dominated by its rounded semi-elliptical two-story pavilion, a three-centered arch in plan. The pavilion's central paneled double door was flanked by pilasters and 2-over-2 windows. A string course above the windows formed the lower edge of a wide frieze. The upper edge of the frieze was a heavier molded string course which was an extension of the second-floor window sills. Over the front door a central panel formed by continuation of the pilasters was filled with a Greek cross-shaped name tablet bearing the lettering TOWN/MEMORIAL/HALL in raised caps. A heavy corbelled flat band of stone above the second-floor windows formed the bottom of a second frieze which featured a large half-round radially glazed window. The window's arch was a brick soldier course.
The pavilion was crowned by a projecting gable with deeply recessed tympanum. The surface of the tympanum was covered with diaper-pattern brick work. The areas of the facade on either side of the pavilion had a single segmentally arched small-pane window at first floor and round-arched window at second floor, under flanking elements of the pedimented main roof. These features above the first floor remain in place.
Fenestration in each side elevation consisted of eight flat-arched windows at both floors.
Little is known of the original interior, save that curved stairways led up from first to second floor in the rounded ends of the pavilion. At the top of one a 6', 3" x 3' marble tablet listed the names of the 21 men who died in service. This tablet is now in the care of the North Haven Historical Society.
Alterations, ca.1950s, to the front elevation provided a 23'-wide front porch with 23'-wide one-story additions on either side. The porch has four attenuated fluted Greek Doric columns which support frieze and pediment. The flanking additions wrap around the corners of the building.
Presumably at this time, bronze plaques were affixed to the walls of the new foyer, reading, on the south wall:ERECTED BY
THE TOWN OF NORTH HAVEN
AS A MEMORIAL TO HER VETERANS
OF THE CIVIL WAR 1861-1865
above three columns of 41 names each. A similar plaque on the north wall commemorates those who served in World War I, 1917-1919. Further alterations were made in 1981, at which time the present interior finishes of dropped acousti-tile ceilings (ceilings originally were 11' high), demising partitions, and wallboard presumably were installed. In one of the alteration projects the original exterior brick was sandblasted.
Janice Elliott, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Pines Bridge Historic District, North Haven, Connecticut (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1988).